Arizona GOP Passes Law Keeping Some Voters From Being Mailed Ballots Automatically
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Add Arizona to the already long list of Republican-led states to pass new voting restrictions this year. Yesterday, the governor there signed a new law that makes big changes to the state's early ballot mailing list. Meanwhile, Republicans in the state Senate are conducting a controversial election review in Arizona's largest county. Ben Giles covers all things politics from KJZZ in Phoenix and joins us now. Hey, Ben.
BEN GILES, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So, to be clear, this new voting bill passed along strictly party lines yesterday and it got signed into law pretty quickly by your Republican governor. Tell us what is in this new law.
GILES: So it's a change to Arizona's permanent early voting list. In short, it would take out the permanent part and become an active voter list. So right now, if you're signed up for the list, you automatically get sent a ballot for any election that you're eligible to vote in.
Moving forward, though, voters will be removed from the list if they don't use that early ballot at least once in two straight two-year election cycles and if they don't respond to a notice from county officials warning them of their removal. It's important to note that this list is immensely popular in Arizona. Most Arizona voters are on it. And if past elections are any indication, officials expect this change could affect tens of thousands of voters going forward.
CHANG: Wow. OK, well, how did Republican lawmakers explain why they were voting in favor of these changes?
GILES: Broadly, everyone from the rank-and-file lawmakers to Governor Doug Ducey said this is about election integrity or it's about restoring confidence in elections. And it's important to note here that it is Republican lawmakers who some of whom have been casting doubt on the election, even though there were no issues here in Arizona. Others said that removing inactive voters who don't choose to vote every election from the list will ensure ballots are mailed to voters who - maybe they moved or maybe they died.
CHANG: And what do Democrats say about all this? Like, why are they opposing this?
GILES: Well, they say it's totally unnecessary, that there's already mechanisms in place in law to keep the list up to date. And as for those doubts about the elections, Democrats say that passing a bill in service of lies or conspiracies won't do any good. They also pointed out that this could have a disproportionate impact on voters of color, low-income communities, Arizona's tribal communities. And they accused Republicans of just ignoring the potential negative consequences.
CHANG: OK. Well, as we mentioned, this is not the only election item in the news in Arizona. Can you tell us a little more about this audit that's happening?
GILES: Right. So Senate Republicans here hired private firms to audit voting equipment and do a hand recount of the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the general election but just in Maricopa County, Ariz. That's one of the largest counties in the country. Senate GOP leaders say this is all in good faith, that it'll either prove once and for all that there was no fraud or it'll find mistakes that they say could need a legislative fix. But there's no indication of any issues in Maricopa County. There have been multiple audits and a partial hand recount that already confirmed the accuracy of the vote count.
The company the Senate hired out of Florida is owned by someone who spread conspiracies of fraud and has no past experience reviewing the elections. That's raised a lot of concerns, including from the Department of Justice, which is now keeping an eye on what's happening in Phoenix. And, you know, this is all happening six months after Election Day. And there's just no end in sight. They've only gotten through a few hundred thousand ballots in the past few weeks.
CHANG: That is Ben Giles from KJZZ in Phoenix. Thank you, Ben. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.